Don’t Be Stupid

I dreamed about the zombie apocalypse last night. Which is weird even for me because 1) I’ve never dreamed of the zombie apocalypse before, and 2) I’ve only seen two zombie movies (World War Z and Warm Bodies) and it was not like either of them at all.

At work last month, my employer talked to us about the drunk guy that wandered into her house while she was watching “The Walking Dead.” Naturally, the girl I worked with that night and myself decided to psych ourselves out by imagining how a zombie apocalypse at the hospital would be. The employee parking lot happened to be the most likely place to get jumped by zombies, and we spent our whole break envisioning all the cliché scenarios we’d have to endure to get to our vehicles.

So of course, guess where my dream apocalypse took place. You guessed it, the hospital.

Except it looked nothing like the hospital. And I never actually saw any zombies that I can remember. I do remember being in a plain white-colored room filled with ordinary furniture. Some strangers were in the room with me, but in the dream I knew them.

Realizing that the zombies would be coming any minute, I constructed a barricade against the door using every piece of furniture. I am quite proud of that barricade, even now. That door wouldn’t open for a battering ram.

I turned away to find some weapons. When I turned back, my barrier was gone. Vanished. I looked to my companions in disbelief.

“Pff. We don’t need a barricade. There’s no way the zombies can get through that door,” one scoffed. My idiot companions had caused my indestructible barricade to disappear.

I tried to reconstruct the barricade using measly scraps and pieces, but they shoved me away and glared at me in a bothered sort of way.

Fine.

I don’t remember much of what happened after that, but I think it involved the stupids being eaten by zombies.

The moral of this story is, don’t be a stupid idiot (stupidiot XD) for heaven’s sakes.

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How to Make Something Awesome in 10 Easy Steps

Step 1: Buy an “Avengers: Fan with Candy“. Be sure to get the Thor one.

Step 2: Buy a Majestic Fish-Tailed Stallion. These come in packages of cheapo farm animals for about a dollar.

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Step 3: Remove the Thor torso from the fan.

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Step 4: Heat a paring knife over the stove. Hack off the horse’s head.

DSC03293 Don’t worry. The head was demented anyway. (See?)

Step 5: Glue the Thor torso onto the horse body.

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Step 6: Get some scrap polymer clay of any color. Form some simple plate mail pieces and mold them to the horse’s body. Be very careful not to mash them. Bake at 275˚ F for 10 minutes.

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Step 7: Before the clay pieces cool and are still quite flexible, hot glue them to the horse. (Sorry, no pictures for a bit.)

Step 8: Get some craft paint. First paint the horse body to match Thor’s luscious hair (palomino). Be sure to repaint the tail to match.

Step 9: Paint the armor pieces gray and add designs so they more-or-less match the Thor torso’s armor.

Step 10: Enjoy your Thor-i-taur.

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Crafton Wood

Remember the Sci Fi stories I post each year? The ones for my school’s Sci Fi Short Story Writing Contest? You may recall how they were mentioned among the finalists for the past two years.  After writing “The Globe” my freshman year, I made it my goal to write a placing story. I wanted not only to make it to the finalists, but to win the legendary Third, Second, or First.

Stuffs happened the year. I became the Historian of the Sci Fi club; I took Calculus, which drains life; and more calculus; lots and lots of calculus; and the musical had very difficult pit music. You get the idea. I didn’t write the story until the night before the deadline, and completed it somewhere around 3:00 a.m. I tried to get some friends to read it the next morning, but none of them did. I still don’t remember why, for I was still in zombie mode then.

At a meeting later that week, as the Sci Fi presidency discussed how to award the finalists and winners, I volunteered to make custom trophies for the winners. This was shortly after the badger’s creation, and I was on a roll. The next day I remembered that I had indeed submitted a story, and began to wish fervently that I would not win the contest and therefore avoid the awkward situation of making an award for myself. :/

The illustrious Author Friend and his Official Editor were called upon to anonymously judge the eight finalists, once the presidency picked them out. At the start of this week, I forced Author Friend to tell me the winners so I could make the awards before the Christmas assembly.

Aaaaaaaaaaand I got first place.

But he didn’t know it was me.

Immediately, I thought, Oh crap.

But I did make a trophy for myself.

And I put the story right here.

Underneath these words.

No, under these ones.

No, these.

These ones.

Just kidding. These.

Guess what.

FOUR HOURS OF SLEEP A NIGHT. 🙂

Okay. It’s right here.

Crafton Wood

Against the clear night sky, the trees were nothing but a blackish mass blotting out the stars. Not a breath of wind stirred the darkness, not a breeze rustled the branches of the kings of flora. The distant stars grinned coldly at the earth from the heavens, as if in anticipation.

A blaze of light exploded through the sky, basking the grove in brilliant rays. A white fire from some distance universe had found the blue planet and rushed eagerly to its rocky surface. The meteor plunged into the grove, not explosively as it would seem, but winking out the second the broad branches swallowed it in. But the meteorite’s work was not through yet: first arose a terrific howling. The otherworldly bawling reached a little village only eight miles from the site, waking every citizen therein and drawing them to their windows. Though the sound only lasted a few seconds, it was followed immediately by a second explosive burst of light, blazing out of the grove itself. The quiet, simple villagers averted their eyes and muttered prayers to themselves.

The whole spectacle lasted barely half a minute before all signs and inexplicable happenings ceased entirely. The only testament to the fallen star were the trees. Though the air remained as still and crisp as ever, the trees now swayed earnestly, branches straining forward to every point on the compass, clawing at the empty sky.

***

  Three years later, a man by the name of Howard Gray fled his home in Kingsport, Massachusetts, and headed west to preserve himself from justice. A late night at a bar, high tempers and clouded reasoning, a stained blade… Gray hated himself for it, but even more he feared his demise should he be caught for his crime. Therefore, he fled into the wilderness hoping to disappear. But before he could erase himself from the world completely, he stumbled across Crafton, a little forgotten village in the peaceful valley. It was there he met Richard Payne.

Stopping for a rest in little Crafton’s tavern, Gray accidentally introduced himself to Payne when he stumbled over the villager’s outstretched feet upon entering the musty bar. Amidst Payne’s apologies, the two fell to talking. When Gray mentioned that he was heading further into the valley the next morning, Payne offered to accompany him. “I’ve wandered all over this valley,” he told the refugee. “I can take you as far as the end of the valley and back again faster than anyone in Crafton.”

Gray could hardly turn down his offer, though how he could convince Payne to leave him in the mountains alone once they got there had him worried. “I’d be glad of your company,” his mouth told the villager. Payne smiled and offered Gray a room at his house for the night.

Though an entire week had past since the incident in the Kingsport, Gray found the memory determined to haunt him through the night. Images of the bar fight screwed themselves into his brain like barbed torture devices, robbing him of sleep and waking him several times in a cold sweat. When he awoke for the fourth time with his left arm throbbing, and noticed early sun streaming in through the window, he rose from his bed rather than submitting to his mental agony again. Wandering out into the living area of Payne’s house, he seated himself by the wide front window and rolled up his sleeve to better examine his arm.

In his wild night thrashings, the improvised bandage had proved too inferior to keep the cut from reopening. A four-inch gash diagonally marred the flesh of his upper arm, cleanly slashed by a razor edge. Gray shuddered at the memory of the blade biting into his skin, leading to his own leaping up in retaliation, and… He shook his head to clear away the thought. A soft sound from the other room interrupted his musings, so he hastily tied the dirty cloth over the wound with his teeth and tugged his shirt sleeve down as Payne entered the room, dressed for the day’s journey.

“You’re an early riser,” he noted.

Gray merely shrugged uneasily.

“I heard you tossing about last night. Didn’t sleep well?”

Gray shook his head. Payne raised his eyebrows, but didn’t press the matter.

They were off within the hour, at first taking a winding dirt path out of Crafton, but that soon dwindled away to nothing. Gray relied completely on Payne’s knowledge of the land as they trekked through the valley. The sun shone brightly, and birdsong occasionally punctuated the pleasant morning air. They made good progress over the easy terrain, and Gray began to relax and forget his troubles. Then, in the early afternoon, Payne spoke up.

“Where’re you from?” he queried. “You never did say much about yourself last night. What brings you away from home to a little place like Crafton?” There was an odd note in his voice, and Gray got the feeling he was missing something.

“East coast,” he replied vaguely. “I needed some clean air for a change, so I came here.”

Payne went a long time without uttering a word, before finally saying, “Is your arm all right?”

Gray jumped. “It- it’s fine.”

Payne spun around and seized Gray by his shirt collar. “You lie!” he accused sharply. “Something happened to you, something happened at a bar fight. And you’re hiding it from me.”

“How…?” Gray croaked, sweat beading on his brow. One hand gripped Payne’s wrist, the other felt for the knife strapped to his thigh.

“I didn’t sleep well last night either,” Payne replied. “You were screaming. It wasn’t that hard to piece most of it together. Start talking.”

Gray let go of his knife and broke down completely. “I didn’t mean for any of it to happen. It was just another night in the Kingsport tavern, like every night I’d spent there in the past. But he was stone drunk, I was tense, we both were armed. He cut me, and–” His words stumbled to a halt. He tried desperately to say the rest of it, but his voice wouldn’t come. After gesturing helplessly, he wrenched out his weapon and showed the sanguine blade to Payne. “I didn’t mean for it to happen,” he forced out hoarsely.

“So you ran,” Payne stated flatly, face expressionless.

“I was afraid,” Gray whispered.

The guide stood unreadable as a condemning judge, his eyes punishing. Each second under his glare further crushed Gray’s soul. At last he delivered his verdict: “We go on.”

“You-”

“We go on,” Payne repeated, more forcefully. “I’m not going to pretend my slate is completely clean, although you are the more tarnished of the pair of us. I refuse to be your executioner. I need time to think. But for now, we will go on. There’s a grove of trees a few miles from here where we can spend the night.”

Gray thought it best to remain silent for the rest of the expedition. The silence gave him time alone with his thoughts, and found himself in a heated argument with himself.

  He knows. He could turn you in. He can’t know, he’ll tell, they’ll find out, they’ll catch up, you’ll be taken back!

  …He could die too.

  No! What are you thinking?! Payne is a friend. He has not harmed you.

  Yet. Think. He is dangerous. He will not leave you in the mountains, not for long. He will bring others to find you.

Gray could not argue with that.

By late evening, they came within sight of the grove Payne had mentioned as they crested a small hill. The guide paused and said to Gray, “Those trees mark the last stretch of flat land before we hit the mountains. We call it Crafton Wood. Something in the soil down there causes the air in the thicket to be unusually warm. I’ve found it welcoming when the nights get cold.”

They hiked down to the dark grove. The trees appeared to be even darker than they had form the hill, and seemed abnormally large up close. Twisted branches grew at crazy angles to each other, patched over with mangy leaves, and weird fungi melded with the bark, creating unpleasant shapes and protrusions. The knotted branches clumped together in some places, as if clutching treasured objects.

Payne led Gray into the unwholesome grove without hesitation, though Gray paused to assess the trees cautiously. As he passed into the small wood, a violent smell assailed his nostrils, the stink of a bog, of decaying wood, the steamy and oppressive stench of death. Gray felt as if he had just stepped inside a long-sealed burial vault, and subconsciously looked about in fear of potential threats. “What’s wrong with this place?”

“A few years ago, a meteor struck down here,” Payne explained. “The whole village saw it and marked it as black magic. I’m the only one who dared investigate. I can only guess that the  meteor leeched some alien substance into the soil and bothered the trees.”

Gray only nodded, still searching the trees with his eyes. Above them, the branches seemed to be hung with some sort of parasitic creeping vine. The musty leaves combined with the deformed limbs and net of creeping stems blotted out the sun quite effectively and placed the grove in a state of eternal twilight.

Payne halted at the foot of a massive beech. Black moss and gray lichens scabbed its convoluted trunk, and branches twice the breadth of any man stretched out from the wooden tower. Overall, the beech struck an imposing and somewhat frightening figure. Gray eyed it contemptuously as his guide spread a bedroll by the trunk. The tree leaned slightly to one side, which happened to be the side Payne had picked to sleep on, therefore looking ready to pounce on them. All the same, Gray was tired and his arm stung, so he spread out his borrowed blanket and bedded down for the night.

He lay awake for the longest time as the gray light faded to midnight black, fingering his bloodied knife. Once again, he fought aggressively with himself over whether or not to kill Payne. Here, in the pitch blackness and a sharp weapon in his hands, it was much harder to push away the notion. Finally, he made the decision and rolled upright, knife grasped tightly in his fist. He leaned over and felt for the edge of Payne’s blankets, finding the soft flannel with his fingertips. Gray then rose into a crouch and reached out to locate Payne himself.

The blankets were empty.

It was then that Gray felt something brush his ankle. He lurched away wildly, but it was if an iron bar held his foot in place. Tossing away all caution, Gray slashed at the unseen attacker mercilessly with his blade, striking what felt suspiciously like wood. After several strikes, the hold loosened and the grasping object vanished. He ran his hands over the soil multiple times, but found no trace of the thing.

  I don’t care where Payne is, Gray told himself frantically as he scrambled to his feet. I don’t care if I’m caught. I must only get out of this grove!

He began walking shakily in no particular direction, hands held out in front of him lest he should run into trees in the blind nighttime. He periodically shouted Payne’s name, but received no response, only adding to his building anxiety. Several times he heard some nearly inaudible thumps, as if something were dropping from the trees.

Only a few minutes had passed since the first encounter with the unseen before he paused to get his bearings. A little moonlight somehow filtered into the grove here, and he could make out the vague outlines of trees. He was about to start walking once more when he felt something snaking around his torso and tighten like a noose.

The blade flashed maniacally in the moonlight, slashing at everything in his near vicinity. The ropey appendage squeezed a little harder and began dragging him away. Then the knife connected with something, a pliant piece of thick twine by the feel of it, and severed it. The hold on him slackened. There came the rustle of branches, a low, subtle hiss, and nothing more. Gray grasped the rough, flexible object wrapped around him and pulled it away. His eyes widened as he brought it into the light. The object was not twine, but a branch.

  The  meteor leeched some alien substance into the soil and bothered the trees, Payne had said. Bothered the trees. “Curse him!” Gray spat savagely. Got to keep moving, he told himself, breaking into a jog. Payne has a funny way of taking matters into his own hands. “Won’t be the executioner, eh?” He began speaking aloud between clenched teeth and heavy breaths. “Needs time to think? Ha!”

A terrific creaking and groaning stopped him in his tracks. Glancing ahead, nameless terror seized his wracked soul in a vice-like grip. A live oak tree, split branches splayed like tentacles, moved to intercept his path. Its roots churned through the soil like snakes, and its innumerable branches pounded the ground in a series of dull thuds.

Gray stood frozen, his heart pounding so heavily he was sure it would draw the live oak to him. He tried desperately to control his gasping breath, but to no avail. The tree paused in its march and slowly twisted around just a bit. Then every branch strained in one direction, struggling to grab Gray as he stood paralyzed. The roots churned on the double, moving the behemoth tree towards him. Unable to think of a better option, Gray turned on his heel and ran.

Spindly wooden fingers whipped at his face and clawed at his clothes as he fled. His arm burned and bled freely, blood tracing down to his hand and wetting his palm. The trees seemed to be moving in on every side, and he felt as if he were staring down a long, moonlit corridor. A root writhed out of the earth and grabbed at his legs, tripping him. The moment he hit the ground, more roots swarmed up to seize him. The crimson knife rent splintered furrows in the wooden serpents, and a few retreated long enough for him to jump up and fly. However, he could not help but notice the things the roots had tossed up as they sprang from the soil. Pale, gleaming white things, bright under the moon.

“You cast me into this hell-hole, Payne!” Gray screamed as he hacked through the fibrous branches of a weeping willow attempting to engulf him. “But I will get out!” His knife cut into one of the dense snarls common in the devil-trees’ branches, and it burst apart, releasing a shower of bones. I am not the first here, he thought grimly.

Once free of the clinging willow, Gray continued on his way to freedom, unhindered for an unnatural extent of time. His step became lighter and quicker, his heart raced with excitement. can make it out of here, he thought with vicious triumph. will!

He thought too soon. When he least expected it, the root of a nearby rowan leapt up and wound about his ankle. As he hit the ground, the knife, his only mean of protection, flew from his grasp. Gray looked at the rowan. The rowan looked at him. They both turned to the knife, and pounced.

The rowan cheated. Still grasping him by the ankle, it yanked him backward so his fingers fell short of his reward. More roots locked over his wrists like manacles as wooden limbs shot down and snatched the blade. Gray thrashed most piteously, but the rowan held like iron. Several more branches snaked down and curled around his arms, his legs, his torso. The roots snapped away, and he was whisked into the air. Still he fought like a madman, tearing at leaves and boughs with his teeth where he could, twisting rolling to break free. Other sinister trees moved in around the rowan, crowding it, branches grasping at their hard-won prize.

***

  Richard Payne sat at the crown of the hill, staring down into the grove. Below, Crafton Wood heaved like the sea during a squall. Howard Gray could be heard above the rustling branches and rumbling roots, his shrieks increasingly panicked and terrified as the trees clumped together near a place at the northern edge of the wood.

“You are not the first, Gray,” Payne said aloud. “Others have come this way, running to escape justice. You nearly beat the wood, Gray, nearly escaped. But the trees never allow it.”

He rose slowly to his feet, the screams diminishing with the coming dawn. “Just is your reward, Gray. Just is your reward.”

And he walked away.

Flight Through Ngranek

I did some more art. With my Bamboo tablet. It makes me happy.

Behold!

If you don’t understand it, read “The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath” by H.P. Lovecraft. Or google it and find a plot summary. It will make sense after that.

UPDATE: Oh my heck. That drawing looks so bad I am ashamed to claim it as mine. Here’s a better one. I mostly redid it because I accidentally erased my entire art folder once upon a time and the recovery my geek friend ran recovered over a million files, but the only .xcf recovered were useless, non-art files. And they duplicated themselves. The end.

Dragonfly

I said this was coming, didn’t I? This story pleases me much more than the last one. It received the best “Dun DUN DUN!!!” Award in my school’s 3rd annual Sci Fi Short Story contest. Thank you to Ki for making this story possible. 🙂

I sat back on my heels and rubbed my eyes, stiff from kneeling over my  desk for the last three hours. On the low table in front of me lay the disassembled remains of a ray gun. Scattered about the weapon were a screwdriver, a wrench, a file, a small knife, fine threads, wires, and a belt clasp. Still, I allowed myself some satisfaction that my precious time had not been wasted.

I’m Stock Jeidon, the Engineer aboard the ship Dragonfly. My job is to build and take apart various objects. I get my own deck with a desk and computer monitor to work with, although the deck only has enough space to crawl and sit up in, not stand. There are eleven in the crew, counting Captain Ray Vesemark. We have one person over each area of work, including Communication, Navigation, Sensors and Scanners, Tactical, Maintenance, and Medical. There are two over Security. Each crew member wears a gray uniform with the ship’s insignia, a green dragonfly in a yellow triangle, emblazoned boldly across the front, and carries a ray gun.

We’d been attacked by pirates the day before. The pirate ship’s turrets had damaged our shield and electricity generator before they boarded us. They’d only outnumbered us by four, and we killed more than half of them. Kate Statch, a Security Officer, locked the remaining six in the jail cell next to the Captain’s quarters on the upper level. The six had mysteriously escaped during the night, recovered their weapons, and surprised us in our sleep. We had no choice but to kill them all that time. Before dumping the bodies in deep space, we stripped them of their equipment, which was handed over to me to study. Did I feel any regret for the possibly avoidable deaths of the pirates? No, not really. Pirates are pirates.

I gathered up the five belts and ray guns from under the desk and swung down onto the ladder from my small deck. I jumped to the floor, squeezed past Chip Renold’s swivel chair at the Navigation desk, and started for the Captain’s platform.

Perhaps I should describe the ship some before I continue. The Dragonfly has two levels. The bottom level has the airlock and switch box at one end, storage rooms at the other, and the bunks, sick bay, and dining area in between. The lower level is also quite narrow, as the Dragonfly’s huge engines rest on either side of it. Currently, most of the Dragonfly’s lighting does not work, since everything is running off our backup battery until Mechanic Marc Merlin gets the generator fixed.

A staircase next to the bunks leads up through a corner of the top level. The top level is a large room divided into different stations with computers, a platform raised on metal legs for the Captain to oversee all activity, and a raised deck at similar height for me to work on. Unlike the Captain’s open platform with only a rail around the perimeter, my deck is almost completely enclosed. The prominent feature of the upper level is the wall screen above the Communications station. All of the computers are connected to this screen, allowing anything to be displayed at any time to everyone. It usually shows the space map, the ship’s symbol against a black screen, projected from one of the Security monitors. This screen displays us and anything else near the ship.

There are some steps to the Captain’s platform on the side facing the stairs to the lower level. I walked around the platform’s legs and mounted the stairs. The platform has a chair for the First Officer Vyland Cabral and a larger one for the Captain.

First Officer Cabral nodded to me at the top of the stairs. I returned the greeting, then turned and saluted to Captain Vesemark until he turned to me. The Captain’s uniform is the same as the rest of ours, but with a blue band about the shoulders to signify his position. Seeing the ray gun and belt in my hand, he rose from his chair and stated, “Ah, you’ve figured them out, then?”

“Yes, sir,” I replied, dropping my hand. I held up one of the ray guns. “These have a very small stun ray built into them, right next to the kill ray. The two can be toggled back and forth by pressing this switch on the side. Judging by Dawson’s recovery, I believe the stun wears off after several hours.” I set the gun down and displayed one of the belts. “The belts have fine wires woven into them, running from a battery hidden in the left side of the clasp to the right. When the two sides of the clasp meet, which would be when one dons the belt, the wires plug into a second device built next to the battery pack. I am not sure exactly what the device is, but I know that it can temporarily shut off the electromagnets in a force shield, causing the shield to waver. A person could easily pass through the shield when it wavers so.”

“So that’s how those pirates managed to get out again,” Captain Vesemark mused. “These belts and stunners are valuable equipment. Put the stun guns on the weapons rack, and the belts on the shelf.”

I left the platform, descended the stairs, and moved to the cabinets above the bunks. The first one on the right side had a rack of spare ray guns in it. As the Captain ordered, I placed the pistols on the rack, and the belts on the shelf above. Having done so, I went up the stairs, crossed the top floor, and hauled myself into my small station, and scooted over to my desk. There I began reassembling the stun gun and jailbreak belt in the blue glow of my monitor screen.

I’d gotten about halfway finished weaving the wires and threads of the belt back together when a familiar sound reached my ears: the grinding, clunking groan of the airlock rotating. The airlock consists of two chambers, one within the other. The larger chamber has two doors, the smaller only one. If you want to exit the ship, open the door, get in the small chamber, and pull the handle. The small chamber will rotate and seal off, then you can open the door and get out. It works the same way for entering.

Hearing the airlock now, I shrugged it off. I knew Marc had been out working on the generators. Perhaps he’d finished and we’d have power again. All he had to do after repairing the generators was press the button in the switch box that would set them working again. I waited for the lights above my head to come on.

They never did.

I continued working all the same, completing the belt and just starting on the stun gun when the first scream reached my ears.

I jumped, banging my head on the ceiling and stabbing my hand with the screwdriver at the same time. Shaking my hand frantically and blinking to clear the spots from my vision, I slowly crawled to the ladder and climbed down to have a look around. The first thing I noticed was the wall screen with the space map; it now showed a white skull symbol next to our dragonfly. Something’s here…. The crew ran around desperately, scrambling back as fast as they could from the stairs; I counted only eight of them.

A figure dressed completely in black, looking for all the world like the void of space, stood not far from the top of the stairs; he seemed to suck away all the light in the room. A uniform, like ours, but in black; tall, shiny black boots, black gloves with iron spikes on the knuckles; a voluminous black hooded cape, the hood hiding this entity’s face from view. One hand stretched out before him, fingertips gently brushing the face of David Sanson, who runs the scanners. David stood frozen, one hand on his ray gun and his face a picture of terror. The gloved hand withdrew and David collapsed, a wordless cry on his lips. Now we numbered seven.

The figure swung his head around, searching for his next victim. The crew members cowered in the shadows under desks, in corners, behind chairs, praying not to be seen. I pressed against the wall as he turned to me, and suppressed a shriek myself as I caught a glimpse of the shadowed face. A bleached white skull grinned from the darkness under the hood, like a full moon in a midnight sky. The black holes of his eye sockets fixated on me, he took one slow, deliberate step forward. Locked in his empty gaze, fear paralyzed me completely.

From the corner of my eye, I saw Kate emerge from behind the Security desk and draw her pistol. Leveling the weapon with the entity’s head, she squeezed the trigger. A white flash exploded from the muzzle and struck right on target. But the second it hit, Kate crumpled to the floor behind the desk again, the pistol slipping from her limp hand to slid several inches away. The ghastly apparition then spun on his heel and vanished, his very being melting into the dark spaces of the ship. Second later, he reappeared next to Steven Arch, the Head of Communications. The black hand seized his face, and he fell across his desk. Five.

This resulted once more in pandemonium, though the effect wasn’t quite so overwhelming as there were only four other people scurrying for cover. Recovering from my shock, I dashed for the Captain’s platform, thinking to hide on top of it. Climbing the stairs, I found the Captain already on the floor looking over the edge.  I dropped to the floor next to him without a word. Below, our other Security Officer Dawson Warden hefted a chair and threw it at the phantom figure. The projectile passed harmlessly through him to crash against the far wall, and Dawson collapsed beneath the Navigation desk. Four.

I turned to Captain Vesemark and asked, “Where are Marc and Josef?” Josef Cambrin was the Dragonfly’s Medic.

“Marc never came back in,” Captain Vesemark explained. “When he stopped answering his radio, David scanned the ship’s exterior, but found nothing. Josef was downstairs when that- that creature entered. We heard him scream, and moments later our visitor came upstairs.”

“Who – or what – is our visitor, exactly?”

“I- I don’t know,” the Captain admitted. “We cannot hurt him without hurting ourselves, our weapons have no effect, and we die at his touch. He vanishes at will. There is no logical explanation. I fear he is a supernatural being, come to ensure our destruction.” His face twisted into a humorless smile. “Perhaps he was friends with the pirates. For now, I shall – aptly – call him Death.”

I nodded, finding this a fitting name. “What should we do, sir?”

“We’ll make for my quarters when he’s not looking,” Captain Vesemark stated. “We’ll gather as many of the crew as we can and barricade ourselves in. He’ll have to leave eventually; maybe another ship will come across us and drive him off. Either way, he can’t stay forever. Once he’s gone, we’ll make straight for the nearest space station.”

I nodded again, smiling grimly. Captain Vesemark always had a plan.

“Go!” he whispered violently, jumping to his feet and racing down the stairs. I stood quickly and chased after them. He made straight for the steps on the other side of the room, pausing to whisper instructions to Tactician Tess Liam and First Officer Cabral crouched in the shadows. I started to follow, but Death turned from the still form of Dawson, searching for the last of us. I ducked under the stairs to the platform I had just left, hidden in the shadows, and waited for my chance.

But even as I watched, Death vanished on the spot. I tensed, heart racing. He could appear anywhere. I pressed harder against the wall, listening intently but hearing only my own gasping breath. Then I thought I heard a footstep on the stairs I hid beneath. I took a chance and looked around. Nothing. I sighed in relief and turned my head back…

…to find myself staring Death in the face. Literally.

The world seemed suddenly to go in slow motion, as if we were underwater. My breath caught in my throat and my heart started racing in panic. A spiked, black-gloved hand slowly rose into my field of vision. A touch colder than ice, cold as the emptiness of space, lightly brushed my cheek. My senses fled, and I fell as darkness closed in, the image of that terrible grinning skull burned into my mind as my last vision of this world.

>†<

“I don’t understand it,” Captain Jason Terrace of the Stargazer muttered. “The whole crew of eleven dead, and not any sign of violence whatsoever?”

First Officer Victor Stanwell, to whom he spoke, nodded in affirmation. “Several of them appear to have been injured after they died, probably as they fell. The ship had some damages to the shield and power generators, but whether that was related to the sudden death of the crew is a complete mystery.” He paused, then continued, “There was one strange thing, though. Their space map showed a white skull symbol stamped over their own insignia. That would imply something is on top of them. We scanned the whole area, but there’s nothing.”

Captain Terrace sighed deeply and rubbed his temples. “Let’s tow the Dragonfly to the Eridanus Space Station, where we can deal with the bodies of the crew and possibly repair the ship,” he suggested. “Perhaps we can also get this mystery solved. Eridanus has the best equipment and investigators.”

Victor nodded and turned to go find someone to secure the Dragonfly in their tractor beam so they could tow it behind them. On his way, he nearly ran into the Navigator Owen Hardin coming in the opposite direction. Muttering an apology, Victor hurried past. Glancing up at their wall screen, a familiar skull symbol next to their blue star startled him. Odd….

Then Victor’s heart skipped a beat as he heard Owen’s words to the Captain:

“Sir, an unidentified person is entering through the airlock.”

Sci Fi: The Globe

So. I am back. With a story. Excited yet? This story is actually the first part of a long book that will educate the world on the marvelous land of Abeemscbabeems, pronounced Abbeems Cabbabbeems. It also happened to be a winner of the Most Inventive award in a Sci Fi writing contest. Prepare to be weirded out.
Twelve-year-old Luke squinted at the surface of the large model earth on the desk in front of him, making sure that every detail was perfect. Once again, he twiddled a dial on the side of his comically large work goggles and zoomed in on the place where his own town was. Carefully, with a tool so thin it was impossible to see without a microscope (or goggles like Luke’s), he carved an amazingly detailed bird’s-eye-view of his house. Satisfied that his work was complete, Luke removed the goggles and glanced at the glowing digital numbers on his ordinary-looking alarm clock. Three a.m! No wonder he felt exhausted. He switched off the lamp on the desk and sank fully clothed onto the bed beside it. He was asleep before his head hit the pillow.
Two hours later, he woke with a start as something soft and tickle-y wiggled itself into his ear. Sitting bolt upright, he glanced over at his alarm clock. A robotic arm had folded out of the front of it, grasping a small feather. Luke switched it off and the arm dropped the feather on the desk and folded back invisibly into the front of the clock. Luke quickly changed his clothes, carefully set the globe in a box, along with two pairs of the strange goggles, put a lid on it, and, pausing only to scribble a note to his parents explaining where he was, dashed out the door.
Once outside, Luke fastened the box to his motor scooter with bungee cords, then hopped on and squeezed the throttle. With a soft humming, the scooter whizzed out of the garage, down the driveway, and onto the street. Grinning to himself, Luke flipped a switch on the handlebars, and almost flew off the scooter with the sudden force of acceleration. It only took two minutes to cross town and arrive at Zak’s house. He parked the scooter in the driveway, undid the cords, and hurried the weighty box up the steps. He knew that Zak’s parents would probably still be in bed at six a.m. on a Saturday, so skipping the doorbell, he peered through the window for Zak.
Zak was sitting on the living room couch, reading a monstrosity of a book titled Statistic Theories. Luke tapped the window, and Zak looked up expectantly. He hurried to open the door for his friend.
“Whatcha got this time?” Zak asked, ushering Luke over to the couch. By way of reply, Luke pulled out the globe and set it on the coffee table.
“And it does…?” Zak prompted. Luke handed him the goggles. “Put those on and use the dial to zoom in on this globe. After you have examined it, I will demonstrate.” Zak obeyed.
“Whoa! This is awesome!” he exclaimed, scanning the globe’s surface with glee. “Is that my house?”
“Yeah,” Luke confirmed, seemingly engrossed in the globe’s base. “Take those off and look now.” Zak removed the goggles as Luke twisted a knob from OFF to ON. With the sound of an iMac starting up, the globe whirred to life and began rotating on its pedestal so slowly the motion was almost undetected.
“I actually don’t know if it works or not,” Luke admitted, “but we can find that out in a moment.” He passed a hand between the globe and the ceiling light. Both he and Zak gasped as the room grew frigid the moment the shadow of Luke’s hand crossed the globe. Outside, everything went pitch black for an instant. “It works all right!”
“What?”
“Everything we do to this globe will be replicated in life size upon the earth,” Luke babbled. “That’s why the detail had to be so great. Watch out the window.” Luke donned the goggles as Zak peered through the glass. Luke removed a Snickers bar from his pocket, shaved off the smallest shred of chocolate possible, and used the microscopic needle to apply it to the globe where Zak’s house was.
A shriek from Zak informed him that the chocolate was now in the yard. He joined his friend at the window. The world’s largest chunk of chocolate was towering several hundred feet into the air. With shouts of glee, the two boys dashed out the door to satisfy their chocolate love.
Half an hour later, they had barely even dented the thing. Baffled neighbors clustered around the chocolate monolith, while Zak and Luke retreated indoors to experiment with the globe some more. They put small crumbs of food on the continent of Africa, created a hurricane by swirling a toothpick in the Atlantic Ocean, and stole a satellite with a pair of tweezers and flushed it down the toilet. Of course, there was some explaining to do when Zak’s parents awoke and found the neighbors marveling (and gnawing) at the chocolate in the front yard, but they were used to the boys’ odd experiments and took the news well.
“I wonder, can we alter the face of the earth with this?” Zak asked after a while.
“How do you mean?”
“Well, suppose we were to create an island, and put it somewhere with ideal climate and resources.”
Luke began to catch on. “And put ourselves on it?”
“Sure, why not? It could be like our very own tropical getaway, created by us!” They decided to give it a try. Using the goggles, they found an uninhabited spot on the coast of Mexico. Luke used the tip of an Exacto knife to cut off a small piece of land and drag it to a perfect location on the equator. Hopefully Mexico wouldn’t mind.
“I believe you just created a massive tsunami on the east coast of Mexico,” Zak observed, watching the miniscule waves on the globe. “And possibly an earthquake and freak volcanoes.” The place where the bit of land had been glowed with red LED lights, which Zak asked about.
“I couldn’t fill the thing with actual magma, so I used LEDs to simulate the real thing. The way the lights behave is the way lava would now be moving,” Luke said, still moving the island around.
“That’s an affirmative to the volcanoes, then. Well, no one lives in that spot anyway.”
“Aha! Perfect!” Luke straightened. “I will now move us onto the island.”
“We better go out into the baseball field or something,” Zak suggested. “I don’t want my whole house going there.” Luke agreed, and they soon were standing in the baseball field, Luke holding the microscopic pintool over the globe.
“Ready?” he asked.
“Sure.” Luke donned the goggles and lowered the pintool. When he heard Zak’s warning shout, he lifted the goggles to watch the sky. A huge metal rod tapered to a fine point was descending out of the clouds. It sank into the dirt just a few feet away, scooping up the portion of the baseball field they were sitting on. Wind whipped through Luke’s hair as the pintool made a rapid ascent. He watched the earth drop away suddenly. The air grew thinner, and the sky darkened.
“Not too high!” Zak shouted. Luke carefully moved the pintool across the surface of the globe towards their island, trying to keep his eyes on the globe and not their current surroundings. Wow, he thought. I’m carrying us! “Don’t drop us,” Zak warned as Luke’s hand wobbled.
They touched down safely on the island. The beach was white sand, and beyond that, tall palms rose to form a dense jungle. The island was perfect, with the sun shining down through the clearest sky, the smell of salt, and the crash of the waves.
“Well, now that we’re here, what do we do?” Zak wondered.
“I really don’t know. Maybe we should have thought this through a bit more carefully.”
“We could start a new civilization, with us as the supreme rulers.”
“You need more than two twelve-year-olds to start a civilization.”
In the end, however, they went back to his house and placed an ad in the newspaper, offering people a chance to come live on the island free; who could resist that? Thirty-odd people signed up, and were told to meet in the baseball field by Zak’s house, near the strange crater.
“Hello to you all,” Zak greeted them when he and Luke arrived. “I am Zak, and this is Luke, and we are going to take you to the island.” This was received with some skeptical looks. “I advise you all to sit down, and scoot closer together. And don’t look down.” Luke jabbed with the pintool. Several dubious people screamed when Luke whisked them into the air on the end of a pin. It took only a few seconds to reach the island, but some of them were looking positively green by the time they got there. Zak, completely oblivious to the discomfort around him, stood and announced something that sounded like, “Welcome to Abeemscbabeems!”
“What the heck is an abbeems cabbabbeems?” Luke hissed.
“It is spelled A-B-E-E-M-S-C-B-A-B-E-E-M-S. It’s the name of the island I just barely made up.”
“That is the most ridiculous name I’ve ever heard.”
“So? Who said it had to be something ordinary?” Luke admitted he did have a point.
Gradually Zak’s dream civilization began to form. And it wasn’t all primitive like some of the people had imagined it to be. They had state-of-the-art technology at their hands, thanks to the brains of Luke and Zak and the way the globe allowed them to get almost anything they needed in an instant. Within five years, great cities dominated the skyline, growing continually as people flooded in.
After discovering that they were in a prime place for hurricanes, Zak and Luke set to work on designing a waterproof force field system that would cover the island, and allow anything but water to pass through it. It only took a few months to design, but another two years passed before the massive generators were assembled and placed at various points along the coast. However, there was now the absence of rain to cope with. Luke proposed the next greatest thing: an artificial atmosphere for the island.
People called him crazy. The were forgetting that they were talking to one of the world’s most brilliant teenagers. Zak was the other smartest teen. They had the artificial atmosphere up in no time, complete with imitation sunlight. It never rained too much, but not too little either. All of this done, the people of Abeemscbabeems were quite happy with Zak and Luke as their leaders… until the accident.
Luke, now nineteen, was worried about the safety of the island. After all, it had been sheared off the edge of Mexico, so it was only staying above sea level by balancing on an ever-thinning column of soil, sand, and rock. It was not actually attached to a continental plate anymore, it was just sitting on top of the South American plate. Luke was afraid that the lower half of the island would crumble all at once if it became too thin, and the whole of Abeemscbabeems would sink into the Atlantic. He began working on a miniscule support tower made of toothpick-thin steel rods. It was slow, tedious work. One night, Luke fell asleep while working, with the globe in front of him. The island’s lower half began to crumble, causing minor earthquakes throughout the island. Zak felt the disturbances and rushed to find Luke.
“Luke!” he shouted, charging into his friend’s study. Luke jerked awake, but doing so, his elbow knocked into the globe and it crashed to the floor. All at once, the world turned upside-down, literally. The boys slammed into the ceiling and wall in turn as the fragile balance of the island was shattered.
When the globe fell, it was lucky enough to hit the floor on the Pacific Ocean, but it created a massive worldwide earthquake and terrible tsunamis as far inland as Nebraska; completely swamping Japan and Korea. Luke could barely imagine the chaos the world was experiencing, so he snatched the globe as the island continued to be rocked about, and flicked the switch to OFF. As the globe flew out of his grasp and smashed to pieces against the far wall, the island stopped its wild careening to sink slowly to the ocean floor.
“What just happened?” Zak gasped, emerging from beneath a shattered chair.
“I think we just caused the biggest natural disaster in the history of the world. And now Abeemscbabeems is sinking to the bottom of the ocean,” Luke replied, massaging his ribs where he had hit the wall. “Good thing we have the force field and the artificial atmosphere and sunlight.”
Since then, Abeemscbabeems has faded from memory completely, though the people on it still thrive on the ocean floor. It has remained forgotten completely… until now.